Tips for the cross border traveller

It’s the summer holiday season again, folks. Are you taking a vacation or a staycation this year? It’s going to be a staycation for me. But, that’s just as interesting and exciting as jetting off to points unknown. It’s fun to play tourist within the boundaries of your own hometown or province. I did a lot of daytripping and weekend-tripping in my university days across Ontario and Quebec. It was a spectacular way to get a taste of everything a small part of this country has to offer.

Given the increase in security details since 9-11, here are the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) 5 tips to minimize border wait times.

1. Plan ahead to avoid delays at the Canada-U.S. land border. The CBSA suggests that you avoid travelling during peak periods such as afternoons and weekends and that you use the Internet to keep track of wait times. You can consult border wait times on the CBSA web site at www.cbsa.gc.ca. You might also want to consider an alternate itinerary using one of the many border crossings on secondary highways along the Canada-U.S. border by consulting www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/do-rb/map-carte/map-carte-eng.html.

2. Carry appropriate identification. Since CBSA officers watch closely for missing children and may ask you detailed questions about the children you’re travelling with, it’s important that you carry appropriate identification for yourself and for all children travelling with you, regardless of their ages. If you have legal custody or share custody of the children, be sure to have copies of the relevant legal documents, such as those describing custody rights.

3. Declare all merchandise you have bought and have all your receipts on hand. Officers may ask you to show receipts for the goods you have purchased and your hotel receipts to verify the length of your stay outside Canada. To avoid unnecessary delays, keep all receipts together and ensure they are readily available.

4. Be aware of your personal exemptions. Depending on the length of your stay abroad, you may be entitled to certain personal exemptions.

AFTER BEING AWAY FOR…    YOU CAN BRING BACK GOODS, TAX AND DUTY-FREE, WORTH UP TO…

24 hours or more                       CAN$50

48 hours or more                       CAN$400

7 days or more                          CAN$750

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products may be included in your 48-hour or 7-day exemption, provided you are of legal age. Certain restrictions apply.

5. Know before you go. Certain goods are prohibited or restricted from entering Canada (weapons, certain plant and animal products, etc.). You can find out more by consulting the “I Declare” brochure, available at www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/pub/bsf5056-eng.html.

Here’s something that’s kind of neat. If you’re a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States, you can apply to become a member of NEXUS. It’s a program designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States. Apparently, a kind of photo reading is taken of your eyes. Just like fingerprints, eyes contain characteristics that are unique to each individual. To find out more, visit www.nexus.gc.ca.

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